I got into this bad habit when I lost my job 2 years ago (has it been that long?) of saying things like, “I don’t have a job so I have plenty of time.” It feels like something I have to say when planning with someone to conquer a task. Like…I’m the one who doesn’t work so I should be the one that carries the burden…whatever the burden is.
The most obvious reason why I should quit saying this is that I’ve been doing some freelance work now and so I actually do have things to do professionally during the day. But in reality? IT WAS RARELY SOMETHING THAT WAS TRUE EVEN BEFORE. My insecurities about being out of work just pushed that concept into my language like it was propaganda for my brain which falsely described my reality.
There are a lot of things that are different about our lives now than the day I lost my job that made it almost untrue from the first few months I was out of work.
First and foremost? Our kids immediately started playing more sports. We were a one season, sometimes one sport a year family. When they were little it was soccer in the fall and then maybe something else in the winter and Spring. But during the years we were downsizing that dropped to just Soccer in the Fall and since we played rec league, it was laid back so we often stopped going to practices once games started. It was basically a 3-hour a week activity for like 3 months a year.
Now? Not only do they do more things throughout the year, but it’s gotten a lot more serious. Wes has to swim at 4:45 four days a week, something he’s not done much of lately because he had soccer which got really serious this year AND he started playing in 2 other leagues so we didn’t even get that Winter break we usually get. Nyoka is currently also playing winter soccer and she’s trying out for the high school team which – if she makes it – starts at an overlap with the winter league she’s in. This week we have sports chaos every night but Friday.
But the more abstract change is once I stopped having an office to go to every day, the kids started “needing” me more during the day. Some of it was conscious, they’re more likely now to call me if they need something run to them at school or if the leave something at home or if they’re not feeling well because they know I’m not sitting in an office with a boss who will be upset if I leave. Some of it is subconscious in that I can do things like schedule therapy appointments during the day or plan on checking them out early or taking them late for minor needs that simply ease our lives whereas before we would just take the more complicated route so I could avoid missing work.
A perfect example: I checked Nyoka out of school at 2pm on Monday for soccer tryouts that didn’t start until 4pm. This was not at ALL necessary, but because she goes to a magnet school on the other side of town and normally rides a bus, we had no idea if I could actually get her to the 4pm tryouts if I waiting until 3pm to get her in the carline. The school won’t let you checkout kids after 2:30pm and I have to pick up her brother at 2:30pm so I checked her out a little before 2pm so her first day of tryouts would not be burdened by stress about being late.
If I worked in an office? I would have just told her to suck it up and ride the bus and be late to tryouts because I couldn’t have taken off early enough to get her all the way across town even at 3pm, much less at 2pm.
And then the obvious side effect of the changes in extracurriculars is that my new “free” hours that I would previously be at work got filled with things I can’t do at night now because of all of the sports. I might have normally stopped and gotten groceries on the way home from work but now I get groceries during the day because I’m spending the afternoons running kids to sports.
AND THEN THERE’S THIS DOG. I don’t have time to explain the complicated ways he takes my free time.
AND YET…I’m still volunteering to do things because of all of the “free time” I have.
Here’s the thing…there’s all of the stuff I should be doing that is kinda my job now…like washing bedding and cleaning floors and cooking dinner. But it’s funny…I haven’t done anywhere near as much of that stuff as I thought I would because it just seems like I keep volunteering my hours away to do things to help people, “because I don’t work and I have all of this free time.“
I realized recently that it’s a defense mechanism that I need to NIP IN THE BUD. I feel insecure about not working (as much) as the full-timers and so I just jump in if something needs to be done and volunteer, but that is doing a disservice to me and my family. Yes, I do have more hours free a week than the average full-time working, but there’s a lot of things waiting in the wings that need my attention that I’m saving for those “free” hours and I need to quit giving those away due to some hurt ego about being without a full-time job.
HELL…I say this often…I’m not sure I could handle a full-time job right now if one was thrust upon me. Our lives have adjusted so much to fill my daytime hours that we would have to A) starting finding parents to help us and/or B) make our kids quit some of their activities. So I definitely need to quit benignly just volunteering my spare hours away simply because I don’t have a 40-hour/week office job.
But more importantly…I need to start respecting myself even as someone who doesn’t work in an office 40 hours a week. My days still have value and my time is still sacred just because I don’t have a boss looking at the clock for me to be in my office at certain times. That is the deeper problem with constantly volunteering my time away…it shows I don’t value my own schedule even as someone who doesn’t “work” in the traditional sense. I’m currently trying to make arrangements to move Mom to Huntsville, I’ve got two small freelance jobs, I’ve got kids playing sports, I’ve got a dog who can’t be left alone for too long during the day, I’ve got personal tasks around the house that need to get done…MY TIME IS VALUABLE and I need to remind myself of that.
STOP GIVING AWAY YOUR TIME, KIM.